Passage to Aitutaki

Alex Rust

21 July 2010 | Aitutaki

As Jim mentioned we left Bora Bora in haste in order to catch the winds we heard were dying in three days and as we watched the pearl of the Pacific disapear into the horizon we threw out a message in rum bottle that we had finished. After some good downwind sailing and wonderful sushi dinner the night before (full on with chopsticks, seaweed wraps, sticky rice, ginger, soy and wasabi sauce and to make it a liitle Indiana some corn) the winds died as predicted and we had to crank on the engine.

Thoughts at sea many times, at least for me, gravitate around food and with the motor running and not under sail it was the only thing I could think of to keep my mind from wondering where the wind was. Over the first two days at sea we ate our last baget meals that had become so commonplace in the past three months being in French Polynesia where the French government subsidizes even the most remote atolls to have fresgh bagets every morning. Our meals on the last baget day went like this : breakfast – sliced bagets made into french toast (ah how french), lunch – ramen noodle baget sandwiches (suprisingly delecious), and finally dinner – baget pizzas made with boatmade sauce and topped with melted wisconsin cheese (a bubbles classic). The bagets will be missed.

For that nights meal we decided to go with spagetti then to treat ourselves made some apple crisp. Thanks to Ross I was now able to make things in the galley I didn’t think possible. The whole boat started to smell of deliciousness and I told Joe to hop on the VHF (radio boats use to communicate with a 25 mile range) so see if anyone wanted to come join us for dinner fully confindent that no one would reply considering we were 200 miles from the closest atoll and hadnt seen a boat since we left Bora Bora. Suprisingly though there came a response and wouldn’t you know it was a dutch friend of mine Adam with his family and they were only 6 miles away! We turned our strobe light on atop the mast so they could see us and invited them for dinner, but then something weird happened and we lost communication. It should have been the first sign of the upcoming weather.

We enjoyed our meal and desert under moonlight with a clear sky and stars so bright you felt like you touch them and afterwords were preparing to settle into our shifts for the night when we noticed a black line of clouds up ahead. There wasn’t supposed to be any significant weather systems in the area so I wasn’t too concerned. More on my mind was how cool the line of approaching clouds looked in the moonlight. Jim looked at me a said it looked like the ‘gates of mordor’ and I agreed adding that it looked like we would be entering another relm soon. Within an hour and within seconds of entering the cloudline the winds went from light out of the northwest to west to southwest and increasing now blowing a steady 15. “Great!” I thought, “Now we can sail!” We killed the engine and raised full sail. Entering the cloud line was like entering a world of perfect sail conditions with winds on the beam and a flat ocean we sliced through the water at hull speed of 7.5 knots. On the previous side of the cloud line there was no wind and now that we had crossed the line the sky became clear as before with a bright moon and stars but now with perfect wind.

We sat up and enjoyed the sailing philosiphizing about this and that and then took to our bunks so we would each be ready for his shifts. Within an hour I woke up to the alarming sound of water running across the deck as the boat was overpowered with increasing wind causing bubbles to heal to 45 degrees and allowing water to come rushing over the rail. It was time to reef. I jumped on deck to see a steady jim at the helm explain to me that we had hit another cloud line but this one didn’t have the pretty starts on the other side. With it came cold rain, darkness and ever increasing waves. After jumping on deck and getting some sail brought down I tried to go back to sleep but with the howling winds and pounding seas I am always straining to listen if we are still on course or if something breaks. Jim later also told me he couldn’t sleep because he thought we were in a hurricane (wasn’t anything close in reality) and Joe who I thought was out cold was awoken by the splash of every wave that hit the boat.

Joe got me up for my shift at 4am and and it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust so that I could distinguish the black walls of water from the black sky and see the 12 foots waves that we were now being slammed by. I liked it better when I couldn’t see the waves. A big change from just a few short hours before when I was praying for wind sitting in a sea of glass. We now had over 20 knots of wind forward of the beam and were on course to make landfall ahead of schedule at first light. I had put some water on the stove and asked Joe to make me a cup of tea. The simple task of pouring the water in, adding milk and sugar, and putting the lid on took over 30 minutes and left Joe some bruises. Jim was thoroughly entertained watching Joe be tossed around the galley saying it should have been a beer commericial for as Joe fell three times he never spilled a drop.

Sunrises at sea are epic especially after a cold dark night of heavy sailing. An hour before the sun peeks its head out the light and its energy makes its way over the horizon and when it does finally show its face you can feel the warmth and security of its embrace. It also lit up the silouette of our destination. Land ho! and we were approaching fast….

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